Mastering the ACT

Hey Choctawk followers! It's your college-loving compadre, Elizabeth. 

So let's talk about taking the ACT. I know it's not the most exciting topic in the world, but it's important nonetheless. 

If you haven't experienced the ACT or SAT yet, it's probably coming. I still remember those early Saturday mornings of checking and re-checking my backpack for plenty of pencils, the right calculator, extra calculator batteries, AND a back up calculator. Yes, you could say I was a little paranoid. But I was determined to crush this test, and I wasn't going to let anything get in my way. 

There were so many questions and ambiguities surrounding this standardized testing mystery. Questions like:  Do I need a TI-84 calculator or is an 83 okay? How do I even use this calculator? Do mechanical pencils count as No. 2? Do you pick B if you don't know the answer? Or is it C? 

The questions abound. But probably the most frequent question in my high school mind was: How many times should I take the ACT? 

I wish someone had answered this question for me in high school; it would have made everything so much easier. But the truth is, there's no magic number. Believe me, I wish there was. Some of my friends took it one time, some took it 18 times. I personally took it three times. Yet we are all happily in college. 

So here's the thing: there is no golden number of times you should take the ACT. 

However, there are both pros and cons to taking the ACT multiple times. Let's check these out so that you can decide for yourself how many times is right for you! 

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Pros: 

  • Improving your score: Each time you take the test, you (hopefully) go into it with more knowledge than you had before. 
  • Figuring out the strategy: Practice makes perfect. A lot of successful test taking comes down to strategy. The more times you take the test, the better you will grasp the strategies for success. 
  • Learning about yourself: Growth happens when you push through difficult circumstances. Taking the ACT is no different. 
  • Competition and Challenge: Each time you hurdle a challenge, you prepare yourself for the next one. Plus, what's wrong with a little friendly competition? Even if it's against yourself? 

Cons: 

  • Overspending your money, sanity, and Saturdays: Taking the ACT takes a lot out of you. It costs money, it costs precious sleep on a Saturday morning, and it costs a lot of mental energy. Sacrificing these things is absolutely worth it, but be wise and count the cost. 
  • Overthinking it: You know when you say a word over and over again, it stop sounding like a word? That's kind of what it's like taking the ACT over and over... Once you start overthinking, it's much harder to make sense of it.  
  • Taking it before it's time: In your eagerness to just get it over with, you run the risk of taking it before you're ready. There's some material on the test that you simply don't learn until Geometry or Algebra II, so your prime time may not be your freshmen or even your sophomore year of high school. Patience... 
  • Doesn't retain value beyond college. I know it can feel like your college and scholarship applications all depend on your ACT score, but it is only part of it. Your standardized testing score does not stay with you beyond college, so learn to put a healthy amount of value in your score now to save yourself some disappointment in the future. 

Well friends, thanks for checking out these pros and cons. As much as I wish there was a definite answer for everything in life, sometimes you just have to make your decision and confidently own it. So weigh your options, know your limits, seek some counsel, and pick the number that's right for you! Happy ACT-ing! 

-- Elizabeth "plenty of pencils" Moore